tv [untitled] February 19, 2012 8:30pm-9:00pm EST
roosevelt, truman, eisenhower, kennedy, johnson and nixon. tim is a prolific writer for both popular and scholarly audiences. his work has appeared on slate.com, "the new york times," foreign affairs and other publications. he's appeared on national public radio, the history channel and c-span. he's the author or co-author of four books. his most recent book, a biography of former president george h.w. bush appeared in 2007 as part of the american presidents series. he has an undergraduate degree from yale and graduate degrees from johns hopkins and harvard. please welcome tim naftali and tonight's panel. [ applause ] >> good evening. thank you very much, mr.
ferrerio. it's an honor to be here. please join me in welcoming the three members of our panel today to the stage. [ applause ] you will be eyewitnesses with them to a very important moment in the cold war. and we will start -- as they come in, i will introduce each of them. you'll hear from them again, of course. ambassador gilbert a. robinson was coordinator of the american national exhibition in moscow where he brought together vice president nixon and russian premier nikita khrushchev in what you will know as the famous kitchen debate. currently chairman of new realm investments llc, president of garr inc., an international firm advising companies on international trade. from 1998 to 2003, he was
national director and chief operating officer of the center for the study of the presidency with headquarters here in washington. from 1983 to 1985 ambassador robinson served as special adviser for publicdy ploemsy to secretary of state george shults. february 1981, president reagan appointed him as deputy director of the united states information agency. we are very grateful to have you here and for your public service. tan ya sochurek was one of the original guides at the moscow exhibition stationed in the model home, which you'll learn more about shortly. besides representing the face of america, she became one of the main faces that americans at home saw in coverage of the exhibition through the many photographs of her taken by howard sochurek that ran in "life" magazine at the time. they later wed in 1965. i don't know if there's any connection between those two bits of information. george feifer was one of the
original american guides at the moscow exhibition. he's the author of many successful books including with the the battle of okinawa," "moscow farewell." he has written for variety of publications including the new republic, "new york times," harper's and "the saturday evening post." he lives in connecticut. we are indeed very fortunate to have three eyewitnesses to this cold war history. ambassador robinson, why don't we start with you. please explain to our audience here and on c-span what these american exhibitions were and why our country put them together. >> well, you have to start with president eisenhower. he thought that we -- and i think it's a quote, that we were conspicuous by our absence from major exhibitions.
so he started out with the trade fairs. we had trade fairs and -- that i participated in as manager and got my feet wet in turkey and then tunisia. then i got called home abruptly when we were putting together the american national exhibition in moscow, which was the official name. so i think that the main objective of eisenhower, who also started the united states information agency, and never realized that years later i would be number two there, deputy director, but the commerce department and the usia had the responsibility for exhibitions, mainly commerce. so that was what happened. and then when i was called home,
there was a man who was named chad mcclellan who game the manager of the american national exhibition, and he had been the president of the national association of manufacturers. and when he called me home, i came to his office and he said, i hope you're not mad at me. i said, no, must be a good reason. he said, remember last year at commerce we were negotiating with the soviets to set up an exchange of exhibitions and it failed? while you were away, i succeeded. what he didn't say is he is probably one of the best negotiators i've ever seen. and he said, i'd like you to be my assistant. then we get over there, you'll be the coordinator of the exhibition. >> ambassador, let's take a look at a picture. jason. let's look at a picture of you with president eisenhower. you can see the pictures. >> that was taken -- actually, mcclellan should have been
there. he was back home in california. eisenhower invited me to the office to thank us really, thanks to everybody. including the people on the stage here. all the guides. for the fantastic job that we had done. >> jason, let's have the next picture. who designed the exhibition? >> we had welton beckett was a major california firm that did a lot. they subcontracted to some italian contractors. we had the buck minister fuller dome. buck minister fuller, i think, was very generous. he let one of his top colleagues come up with other ideas, and they expanded his idea and anodized the aluminum gold color. and it was 75 feet high and could hold about 5,000 people standing up watching the exhibits and things like that. it was, don't you think, tanya,
it was just enormous? >> wasn't jake macy involved? >> no. jack macy was the usia. and he was a brilliant coordinator of this exhibition. and jack did a really terrific job. >> did we get as much space from the soviets as we asked for? this looks like -- >> we got ten-acre site and they got the coliseum in the heart of new york. it was easier for new yorkers to get there. but sokolniky and mcclellan warn med, we had only six months to build this exhibition. one of the things that happened, eisenhower was so interested in it that he arranged for mcclellan, who was reporting to the secretary of commerce, to report to him. that gave it a lot of clout. and mcclellan was very smart, and he said -- at that time we're in the middle of the cold
war. all the communications are highly encoded. and he asked -- said to the state department, i want no encoding of any of our cables that go to russia. we want the soviets to be able to read them. and it was -- state department, i had been there. i can understand their point of view. were horrified. eisenhower said let it go. it turned out it was wonderful because we would send cables back and forth to our managers that we had put over there and said, you know, we need forklifts. we need trucks. why aren't you getting them? is it possible that the soviets don't have them? and then no answer, no answer. and then a week later -- >> forklifts. >> huh? >> go ahead. >> a week later a state department courier brings us -- we had one of the first polaroid cameras. there it was. a parade of forklifts and the
soviets put on a parade. >> jason, let's look at what one of the forklifts built. so were the goals to introduce soviet citizens to daily american life or the american goods? >> no. it was that. i believe that was cruikhrushch aim. i can talk about that later. to do that so that he could take more of the -- of the defense budget and put it into consumer goods. we wanted to show them what america was, so there was a really broad picture. you help me, both of you, if i forget some of the things. you'll remember. the pavilion there was the fashion pavilion. and we had a fashion show with -- with little kids and grandmas and everybody. we had a mock wedding. >> we had some beautiful things there. in that geodesic home we had the
family of man exhibit, stunning. in brussels, i think. beautiful photography. we had dior models who were helping out and showing american clothing. we had a beauty shop. which the russian women really enjoyed. we had ge with an all-electric kitchen. i mean, these were -- we had a drugstore, if i remember correctly. we had a tremendous selection of things. of course, the automobiles. my god. they loved the american cars. >> when you were putting this together, did you know that the vice president of the united states would be making a visit? next slide, please. >> the answer is a resounding no. we didn't know until toward the end that there was going to be a delegation. we thought nixon would probably maybe he would send nixon to head it, and i was surprised when i learned that the president's brother would head it and not the vice president. >> that's milton eisenhower.
>> milton eisenhower. once i was in a taxi and i wanted to see how much information the general public was getting in a taxi driver. i said, eisenhower's coming over here. the taxi driver said, yeah, milton eisenhower. nyet presidente. >> next picture, jason. tan ya, how did you come to be a guide? >> okay. it was -- it was actually a very interesting experience for me. i was graduating. it was my senior year at g.w. here in washington. somebody picked up a little article in "newsweek" magazine saying that the american government was going to put together a show and they were looking for 75 american russian-speaking guides. and i was very fortunate. i came from a russian family. tan ya being a russian name. we spoke russian in the home pip had a great advantage over a lot of people because i didn't have to struggle with the language. and i went down to the usia office and had a very short interview and it was accepted
pretty quickly. but there was a great batch of 75 young people. some -- i was one of the younger ones at the time. there were people who had finished college, done graduate work all the in the russian area. russian area programs, literature, history. they knew quite a lot. we had a really intelligent group. and i just kind of fitted into this. what you're seeing here is just a shot of me working in the model house. it must have been in the fall because you can see i'm kind of bundled up. it was getting cold. we finally finished in, what, september? didn't we finish in september, george? >> yeah. >> yeah. and it was cold. that's just a quickie of that. >> ambassador robinson has a story to tell you, which he's been waiting a number of years to tell you. >> is this good? >> i've never revealed it. >> should i leave? >> i've never revealed this to you. >> maybe i should go. >> no, no. he's only revealing it to you and people with insomnia on c-span. >> so i'm going to sleep well. it's okay. >> mcclellan was very smart. so he built 20 officers.
ten were for the russians, ten for us and left the doors open so we could wander in and out. the manager of the -- on the soviet side who was there to help us came in to me very agitated one day. he said, come over here. i came to the top. we could look down. he pointed to you. >> uh-oh. >> he said, she has to go home. and i said, what are you talking about? she's not american. i said, what do you mean she's not american? she's american as i am. no. she speaks russian like me without an accent. >> oh, my god. >> i said, of course. her mother was born here. and they spoke russian at home. you had told me that. >> uh-huh. >> but i never told you that. >> i appreciate that. >> he just threw up his hands. >> thank you for keeping me there. >> before i show you the next photo i want you to know that we did not -- nobody has paid product placement. can we see the next photo, please? george, how did you get to be -- >> you haven't changed a bit, george. >> you haven't changed a bit, george. >> my russian was so atrocious i
am not going to bore you with that. but i want to, with your liberty, i want to put these in a broader perspective from the first. first of all, this was such a sensation in moscow that i subsequently went on to study at moscow university, and i met a dozen people who either climbed the wall or the fence or went under the fence. these were friends of mine later in moscow. it was a huge attraction. the russians, of course, had been -- there had been a youth festival in moscow in 1957. it was beginning to open up after the death of stalin. but still, to have an american exhibition not quite in the heart -- it wasn't central park, but sokolniky park was an underground station, a metro station right there.
to have this was an extraordinary accomplishment on both sides. both sides who wanted to cool it. many people opposed on both sides. we'll get to that later, i hope. secondly, even more extraordinary was, probably you in the audience with your enviable youth don't remember or never knew the all-consuming nature of the cold war. the depths of the cold war, we were scared out of our minds. i live in very rural connecticut. a house of a friend of mine had just bought in rural connecticut, 100 miles from any city, had a bomb shelter. americans were terrified. and, sadly, americans never knew how terrified the russians were. we have a great difficulty in putting ourselves in other people's shoes. anyway, this was an
extraordinary event in a terrible time. because the energy of this country, virtually every aspect of our country and of russia was dedicated to pursuit of the cold war. >> george, you and tanya remember on some weekends we had enough crowds to break down the fences almost. 60,000 people would come in in this ten-acre site. and one day another one of the russian staff up there who we all knew was the kgb man, and he came rushing in on a weekend. and up the stairs, very excited. and i -- my russian was fair, but not good. and so i pulled -- we had several translators who were russian. part of the russian staff. i said, what's the matter? so she took me a little bit aside while he was sputtering on the steps and said, you know, he's used to -- when he's around
around tells people what to do, that they, you know, they feel that he should -- that they would do that. they understand who he is. he said, but here they feel that it is america, and they're on american grounds. and the only people who they obey are the americans. i had designed this button which actually is my original button, all of us wore them, and it was mcclellan and i figured how are we going to have the guide? do we have uniforms? we decided, i suggested to him and he liked it, the button. and so we had the designers do this. it says, "american exhibition in moscow," right? >> right, right. >> okay. so she said, the only people that will be obeyed, and he wants one of these buttons. and i said, well, i said, sir, i won't use the real name, but i said, vladimir, i said, i'm sorry. these are only for americans.
he got more excited at the translation. finally, i said, this is crazy. he's trying to help us. i took it off. i gave it, pinned it on him. i said, today you're an american. he went away happy. he controlled the crowds and helped us very much. because we were having a lot of crowd control problems. >> you know, not only do we have to explain the psychological moment of the cold war, but maybe since we live in the iphone, ipad era, we might want to talk about cultural isolation. how much did the russians really know about american society? >> my god, not very much. they were so terribly cut off. i don't want to jump ahead to the actual debate, but one of the -- i think one of the underlying reasons that you had a debate was because even khrushchev with his limited exposure to the west, no exposure to america until much later, you know, was -- grew up as all the russians grew up. feeling this lying of all america did was discriminate against jews, lynch blacks, have
terrible unemployment problems with the working classes. it was just so negative. everything was terribly, terribly negative about us. when we brought in this fantastic show of how we really were living back in 1959, i'm sure this really irked khrushchev in the sense that i don't think he believed it. i really don't. >> you forgot the best exhibit of all. that was you and the other 75 guides. you spoke russian fluently and the others spoke it very well. and these were -- i mean, there were sometimes, you probably felt it. where they didn't want to go through the exhibits. they wanted to talk to you. >> they just wanted to talk to us. >> about everything. about anything. >> about anything. the interesting thing was having personnel there, 75 of us, unlike what the soviets had in new york when they opened their show. we were given a little bit of instruction. but we never came out identical in the sense of everybody thinking the same way. you know, somebody grew up in connecticut. somebody in new york. somebody came
i was living with my mother, someone else may have been married. people giving their personal lives you could ask us different questions about politics, we came up with different answers because we weren't programmed. >> we had different political ideas. >> that's right. we had different political ideas. >> some conservative liberal. >> all across the board, we didn't have to represent a particular party line. this was a shock to them. >> there was an attempt to give us a bit of a line. >> we had to get some background. >> let's not white wash america. you're right the russians knew very little about america and it was very slanted. how much did the americans know about russian life? i'll stand here and say that the average educated russian read more literature than the other way around. this literature was in a sense censored, there were a lot of
books you couldn't get. i don't want to do the usual job of white washing americans in this business. we were ignorant of the russians and the average american thought of russians as one big labor camp and the fact is when we were at the exhibition, we heard a lot of different opinions from russians. now, there were among the crowds kgb agitators there, you could pick them out, who when somebody asked me why was my sister named lila, how much did a kilo of bread cost. i didn't know what a kilo was. i had to learn. there were kgb agitators who would ask these questions about lynching blacks, about unemployment, about surrounding them with military bases was the standard thing you could get.
on the other hand, there were russians who hid themselves in the crowd who shouted out to these clearly kgb agitators saying shut up. we came to hear these guides, not you. we hear you every day. so let's not whitewash america and say that all the misunderstanding was on the part of russians not knowing american life. >> didn't you write they knew more about mark twain? >> russians read a great deal more about our most supposed most seminal american author. this is no longer true now in russia but was true during the communist period. >> i think you may be right about reading literature and novels, i think the russian culture is steeped on it. their news was totally censored. it was the way the communist party wanted. >> they were restricted. >> the u.s. had freedom of information and we had that.
>> things like voa, voice of america, they loved that and the jazz program that we pushed thr tough for them. we had much more access to information than they did. >> did any of you get to know i think we had three black guides? >> sure. >> one was a great buddy of mine, yes. >> they would come up and that is where they didn't want to go to the exhibition, they would ask them aren't you persecuted, have you ever had anyone lynched, all kind of ignorant questions because they didn't have nl. -- the knowledge. one of their fathers was a doctor. do you remember that? >> one was norris garnett. i can't remember his background. >> went into usia later. i got to know him. >> it was hard for them because they were pummelled with questions. being black and trying to represent america. what are you doing here?
how come you're representing the people who are always against you? >> where do you live? we're in jersey. in a high-rise? no. we have our own home. he was trying to be low key. you don't have a car? yeah, we have two in the family. you know what i'm saying. it was unbelievable. one of the things that happened, cars, very important, i remember standing in front of the national hotel, across from the kremlin, and talking with somebody, just in the street and there was not a single car or truck came by for half an hour because moscow is now one of the worst traffic jams in the world. >> that's right, it is. >> one of the things i don't think the exhibition staff or anybody could take correct for, but the photograph fors who flew over the plants, there was a plant by disney. and inside the dome were two --
was it five or seven? i think seven screens. >> the screens, yeah. >> 20 x 30 foot. when i heard the music even today the hair stands up on the back of my neck because the russians were seeing in one big screen there would be a hand getting out in the days of the milk bottle in the morning. then the yellow school bus. the seven screens quickly would pick up the life of america in the morning. and then it went to the afternoon, and then new york it would see somebody eating from one of the carts a frankfurter, in chicago a fancy restaurant, then l.a. then the night and evening. >> very creatively done. >> i'm trying to think of the husband and wife team who did that, they were great artists. eames, they created this. thank you. mr. and mrs. eames. we had people from different
walks of life and architecture and jack selected a lot of the designers and, jack macy, all came together beautifully. i started to say about the cars. the photographer in the plane flying over, showing the plant, but he didn't realize he got couple thousands cars in the picture and the russians were all pointing to the cars because they were beginning to realize that americans did have cars. because there couldn't be that many bosses. in russia, only the bosses had the cars. >> speaking of bosses let's talk about july 23rd, the day that khrushchev and nixon come to the exhibition. you helped plan that day. >> yep. >> was a debate planned? >> oh, gosh, no. mcclellan and i, was quiet, #:00 at night the night before, we started two days before and got
at night the night before, we started two days before and g9:0 at night the night before, we started two days before and got interrupted and the whole discussion was mcclellan says where do you think we ought to go? i said you go. how do we do this, i said i was in the army, i said you choose the places i'll put up my hand we decided that and basically and lead. we decided that and basically mcclellan that there would be first in the first color studio in the world. none of us had seen color television, if you wanted to record a program, you had to put a camera in those days, up until '59, 16 millimeter camera, and what was it called? >> jason, let's look at the ambassador bringing in khrushchev, not ambassador then. bringing in khrushchev. so you were going to first bring them to the rca. >> then we would go past the
helena rubenstein where the women were getting facials. th kendall. he was the vice president of pepsi then. he wanted to sign a contract. and he kept hammering us. got to have khrushchev drink pepsi. so -- >> which they didn't like. >> what really happened is we were going to go by there anyway, you know better than i do, the society pretended that they were galtarian and we had had very pretty russian girls in pepsi uniforms, and i said, if we go closer i'll bet you they will cry out, mr. premiere. they tasted it, kendall signed a 15 year contract. if you went to the soviet union.
only pepsi there until 15 years later. i saw don kendall at the russian embassy last week, 90 years old now, former chairman but still heavily involved in russia, and he told me that pepsi now has from that beginning employs 30,000 people in russia, been expanding. >> they do vodka, too. >> that is how they get paid.pi please. tanya, tell us how you ended up meeting pat nixon. >> again, this was not planned, i was just working in front of the house, and all of a sudden she came up with a group, small group and came up and wanted to see things and she was delightful. very very pleasant person. it was very nice to talk with her, it was easy, very nice, simple person, not complicated, not stand offish, i remember her distinctly as being very pleasant and the crowds liked her. stayed for a little while then